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THE ASSASSINATION OF RUSSIA
Written by   
, 09 2008

1On March 5th, 2002, the movie The Assassination of Russia, shot by French journalists, was shown in London. The'Liberal Russia' movement intended to air the film, which was about the 1999bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk. Actively participating in this was Sergey Yushenkov, a member of the Russian parliament. Themain purpose of the action, the MP emphasized, was to find out the truth, to attain an objective investigation of what happened in Moscow and Volgodonsk and was being prepared for Ryazan.

We can provide any Russian law enforcement authority in Russia with the facts and documents connected with the case. Weare ready to give these documents to every Member of Parliament, and during public hearings and a public inquiry we will once again raise the question of the role of the secret services in Russia, and their lack of control, said Sergei Yushenkov.

None of the official television channels has shown the entire film. Iam offering my readers a transcript of the film, which was published on the website September terror.

Written and directed by: Jean-Charles Deniau
Operator: Tony Bosco
Editing: Paul Bedeau
Producer: Charles Gazell

Autumn 1999. Awave of bloody explosions sweeps through Russian cities. OnSeptember 4th, in Buinaksk, Dagestan, 62people die in the rubble of a tower block. Onthe night of September 9th, in Moscow, an eight-storey apartment building on Guryanov Street was blown to bits. Atoll of 984dead and 164wounded. Atdawn on September 13th, in the capital city again, a powerful explosion totally destroyed a 7-storey building on the Kashirsk road. 119bodies were pulled from the rubble, including 12children. Three days later, in Volgodonsk in southern Russia, 17people died in the explosion of a building. Russia had never before been subjected to such acts.

Mass psychosis quickly set in. Alloffices and non-residential premises, cellars and basements were thoroughly checked. Civilians volunteered to patrol courtyards, stairways and landings.

A multitude of checkpoints half-paralysed road transport.

Responsibility for the attacks has never been claimed, but from day one the secret services put the blame squarely on the Chechens.

3Alexander ZDANOVICH, FSB director of public communications: The people who organise these missions, who prepare the explosives, who deliver them and have overall control over everything that has happened are obviously in Chechnya. Ican tell you that with the utmost certitude, Ican guarantee you that they come from the training camps of Khattab and Basaev.

NARRATOR: After a three-year truce in Chechnya, the war had now moved to the heart of Russia. Withfeelings running so high, the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered an immediate bombing campaign to bring the rebellious Chechens to heel.
ImageVladimir PUTIN, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation: Russian planes are only striking the terrorist bases. Wewill follow the terrorists wherever they go: if they are at the airport, we will be there, excuse me, but if they are in the toilets, we will go in there and get them. That’s all there is to it, the problem is solved!

5Boris NEMTSOV, Russian MP: When the first explosions took place in Moscow, then in Volgodonsk, the public was in a state of stupefaction and shock. Thiscoincided with the appointment of President Putin as Prime Minister, and Ithink that then about 9095per cent of people, just like now in America, supported the action the president took to eliminate the Chechen bands. Butwhat’s interesting is that even now it hasn’t been proved that the Chechens did it.
6Ruslan KHAZBULATOV, former chairman of the Russian Supreme Council: OK, so the finger is pointing at a whole people, the Chechens but show me who carried out the attacks! Showme who planted the bombs! Theycan’t do it.

The absence of any proof of the “Chechen connection”, the sheer scale of the attacks, the professionalism with which they were carried out, cast serious doubt on the official version. Russian public opinion and the press began looking for other people behind the bombings.

7Sergey IVANENKO, Russian MP: To judge from the consequences -- and they say that in politics you should always look to see who benefits -- then of course there are all sorts of different versions. Andthe public is still very interested in the role played by the special services in all of this.

NARRATOR: There is no doubt that it was the terrorist attacks of 1999and the renewal of war with Chechnya that put the tough young leader in the Kremlin. Butalthough the majority of Russians supported the new regime, several of its actions betray uncertainty, even fear. Thepoint is that the only terrorists detected in connection with the house bombings were FSB agents.

The first mention of the Russian special services’ involvement in the terrorist attacks of 1999was made on 22September, after three explosions had already claimed more than 300lives and a strange incident took place in Ryazan. Although there is an official version of this incident, to this day the Ryazan case remains the Kremlin’s best-kept secret. Itis a key link in the version of events believed by many Russians, and which arranges the events of recent years according to strict logic. Ifthis version is true, the entire story of President Putin’s rise to power appears quite different.

Those involved in investigating the mysterious events in Ryazan include journalists from the newspaper “Novaya Gazeta”, one of Moscow’s last-remaining independent publications. Andsince the FSB doesn’t like it when people stick their noses into its business, the newspaper has more than its fair share of problems.

8Dmitry MURATOV, editor in chief of ‘Novaya Gazeta’: We consider that, according to the law, according to the Russian penal code as it stands, the facts disclosed by our paper should lead to the opening of a criminal enquiry to establish if those facts are indeed well-founded. Butinstead of that, a slander suit has been brought against the paper.

NARRATOR: In August 2001“Novaya Gazeta” took a risk when it published extracts form a book by Yuri Felshtinsky and Alexander Litvinenko “The FSB Bombs Russia”.
The historian Yuri Felshtinsky was born in Moscow and since 1978he has lived and worked in the United States. Hehas written several books on the history of the USSR. Asan American citizen, he was the first foreigner to obtain a Russian doctorate in history.

9Yuri FELSHTINSKY, historian: We all know the history of intelligence from failed operations. That’s what happened here. TheFSB tried and failed to blow up a building in Ryazan. Thedetails are clear enough to make it a textbook case. Weknow everything, what car they came in, how many of them there were, when and how they planted the bomb. Whattime it should have gone off. Itcan hardly be a coincidence if the attacks stopped after the bungling of Ryazan. Itwould have been stupid to carry on with a flawed battle plan.

NARRATOR: The NTV television channel, then still independent, took an interest in the Ryazan case. InMarch 2000it broadcast a free debate with everyone involved in the affair in its show “Independent Enquiry”. Thanks to these images, which strangely enough have neither been destroyed nor safely tucked away anywhere, we can reconstruct what really happened in Ryazan.

First of all, the facts: on 22September, at ten past nine in the evening, a strange scene is being played out in front of an apartment building. Alexei Kartofelnikov, a bus driver, returns from work and near his house, No. 14/16 on Novoselov Street, he notices two men and a woman unloading three large bags from the trunk of a car and carrying them into the basement. Asecond suspicious point is that the number 62, indicating a Ryazan registration, is written on a piece of card taped over the white car’s real number.
Alexei KARTOFELNIKOV, resident of apartment building #14/16: Ipassed them, but took a good look at the rear number-plate too, and sure enough, it was the same. Apiece of paper with 62on it taped over the end of the registration number. Itmade me suspicious, so when Igot home, Icalled the police.

NARRATOR: A patrol car arrived at the scene one hour later. Thecar had gone, but the police made an important discovery in the basement of the building, three large 50-kilo bags and a homemade detonator programmed for 5.30. Thepatrol chief was Andrei Chernyshev. Pavel Voloshin, a “Novaya Gazeta” journalist met him soon afterwards.
Pavel VOLOSHIN, correspondent of ‘Novaya Gazeta’: He told me he was sure it was a serious situation. He’d seen the bags, a wire coming out of the bags, and there was a detonator. Hewas sure he had prevented an attack and that, thanks to Kartofelnikov’s phone-call, hundreds of lives had been saved.

NARRATOR: On the NTV programme, in front of the cameras the tenants of the building recounted the details of the events of what they saw and went through thatnight.
GIRL: When the police went down into the basement, they weren’t very enthusiastic about it, because it’s in a terrible state and some people use it as a toilet. Butwhen they came back up, the expressions on their faces were very different.

MAN: The cops were running all over the building, banging on doors, shouting, “Everybody out, there’s a bomb in the building”. After what had happened in Moscow and other places, everyone went down into the street in their dressing gowns and slippers.

WOMAN: We’ve got a 3year-old. Wegrabbed him out of the bath, soaking wet. Wewrapped him in some rags and ran at breakneck speed.

Alexander SERGEYEV, chief of the Ryazan district FSB: Igot there at 10:15 that evening. Ibrought all the people who live in the building together and told them, “We’ve checked the basement and the attics, and the building is safe”. AndI told them, as head of the local FSB, “You can go back to your homes”.

NARRATOR: This is the first point on which the official version contradicts the facts. Thetenants of the building actually spent the whole night in a nearby cinema. Theinspection of the building took so long that they could not go back to their homes until the following morning.
MAN: We were not allowed back in and the police stayed in the building until 10o’clock in the morning. Theyled us away at 2o’clock in the morning

SERGEYEV: Inoted a quarter past midnight.
MAN: We were taken to the “October” cinema, there was no heating, and it was freezing for the children.

SERGEYEV: But Iwas there with you.
MAN: We were all in the October cinema, there’s no point in lying!

NARRATOR: Maintaining a false version of events is always difficult. Butnot long before this clash General Sergeyev was telling a completely different story.

SERGEYEV: Iwas with you all night. Iworked with you until morning. Wespoke to each other and yes the situation was certainly serious.

NARRATOR: On the night itself the former head of the Ryazan office of the FSB was as certain as anyone else that there had been a bomb in the building.
Man: Sergeyev came over to us several times. Around two o’clock in the morning, when the bags had been checked, he got us all together in a circle around him and said, “Today is your second birthday. There were three bags of explosive programmed half past five in the morning. Youwould all have been here, and you would all have been blown sky-high.”

NARRATOR: Indeed, that evening it was clear to all concerned that the bomb disposal squad had defused a real bomb.

Yuri TKACHENKO, bomb-disposal officer: There were three bags. Theone in the middle had a hole in it. There was an electric watch inside with wires coming off it. Iput my hands in and started gently taking the wires out of the bag.

NARRATOR: This is a photo of that detonator, taken the next day, the 23September. Asfor the bags, analysis revealed traces of hexogen, an extremely powerful explosive.

Acting on the experts’ conclusions, on the night of 23September, the Ryazan public prosecutor ordered criminal proceedings to be instigated in accordance with article 205of the penal code: terrorism. 1,200 police officers and soldiers were thrown into the hunt for the bombers. Their identity pictures were pasted all over town and distributed to all police patrols.

RYAZAN
POLICE OFFICER: There were two men, one with a moustache, and a woman in a tracksuit. Shewas sitting in the back.

NARRATOR: On the evening of 23September Prime Minister Putin announced to the world: “As far as the events in Ryazan are concerned, Idon’t think they are some kind of cock-up. Ifthese sacks with the explosives were noticed, that means there is at least one plus in the fact that the public is reacting in the right way to the events taking place in our country today.” In this way Putin confirmed that a terrorist attack really had been thwarted in Ryazan.

The Ryazan telephone exchanges had been put on red alert. Thetelephonist Nadezhda Yukhnova intercepted a suspicious call to Moscow. Thenumber that was dialled began with 224, which is the exchange that services the Lubyanka, the FSB headquarters.

Nadezhda YUKHNOVA, telephone operator: They said, “Is the woman with you?” “No, she’s taking the trolleybus at noon.” “Where’s the car?” “The car is in the car park.” “Leave Ryazan separately, there are check points and patrols everywhere.” And Imean, anyone could have thought because everyone was thinking about terrorism.

NARRATOR: Thanks to that phone call, just 24hours after the discovery of the bomb, the police had already located the suspects’ hideout.

But then something quite inexplicable happened. Onthe same day, 24September, two government ministers speaking half an hour apart in the same place made two completely contradictory statements. Vladimir Rushailo, Minister of the Interior, categorically stated that there had been a failed terrorist attack in Ryazan.

Vladimir RUSHAILO, Russian Interior Minister: Positive measures are already being taken. Oneexample is the prevention of an explosion in an apartment building in Ryazan.

NARRATOR: But then Nikolai Patrushev, Director of the FSB, immediately contradicted his colleague.

Nikolai PATRUSHEV, FSB Director: First of all, it was not an explosion and it was not prevented. Also, it was not good work. Itwas an exercise. There were no explosives, just sugar.

NARRATOR: The fact that Minister of the Interior Rushailo had not been informed about any exercises being held definitely confirms that a terrorist attack really had been thwarted in Ryazan. Several months later, during an NTV broadcast, an FSB spokesman let slip that the exercise in Ryazan -- since it was now the official version that it was an exercise could only have been carried out jointly by the FSB and the police. Because the appropriate order had been signed by both ministries.

Stanislav VORONOV, first deputy director of investigations, FSB: The police and the FSB jointly planned a major operation including all the members of the Russian Federation. Theoperation was code-named “Anti-Terror Whirlwind”. Patrushev and Rushailo signed it.

NARRATOR: Even high-ranking secret service officers had difficulty supporting the exercise version of events.

Yevgeny SAVOSTYANOV, former head of the Moscow district FSB: Idon’t get it. Whydid it take two days to tell the whole world it was an exercise? Frankly, it’s incomprehensible.

ZDANOVICH: Well, it’s obvious. Wewanted to check the logical progression that our actions would follow, including the hunt for the terrorists. That’s why we didn’t reveal straightaway that it was an exercise.

SAVOSTYANOV: Right, and you couldn’t have let Rushailo in on it?

ZDANOVICH: Well, you know, sometimes things can get a bit muddled during an exercise.

SAVOSTYANOV: Right, Right

ZDANOVICH: Well, during the exercise we checked our system and the system of the agencies of the Ministry of the Interior.

SAVOSTYANOV: Well, can you imagine it, at this collegium Rushailo says it was a great achievement, then half an hour later Patrushev says, oh no, guys, it was just an exercise. Well?

NARRATOR: But Vladimir Putin found himself in an even more awkward position. Hehad also announced that a bombing had been thwarted. Hadthe Prime Minister known about the exercises in Ryazan?

FELSHTINSKY: The idea that until Patrushev’s announcement on 24September Prime Minister Putin didn’t know about any exercises being held in Russia is improbable. Itthat was true, Putin would have had to sack Patrushev the moment he heard that an exercise was being held in Ryazan and Patrushev had misled not only the whole country, but also him, Putin. Patrushev didn’t lose his job, so Putin must have known that Patrushev was holding an operation in Ryazan on the blowing up of an apartment block.

NARRATOR: The members of the Ryazan FSB were not informed about the operation run from Moscow out of considerations of secrecy. Butthey had seen with their own eyes that the detonator and the explosive were genuine. Theyfound themselves in a very tricky situation.

VOLOSHIN: To put in mildly, Sergeyev was not pleased, in fact he was beside himself with rage. After all, in this case his professional pride as a member of the special services had been trampled in the dirt. Howcould an FSB general not know what was going on in his own province?

NARRATOR: Even worse, now the Moscow bosses were trying to force the local Ryazan FSB to change their game completely. Andthen, to cover themselves and separate themselves from the actions of the Centre, the local secret service men published an absolutely unique statement.

FELSHTINKY: Iwould say this document is concrete proof of the involvement of the FSB in the Ryazan attack. Iam going to read these few lines of the Ryazan FSB statement. “It has been made known that the imitation detonator discovered on 22September was part of a joint operation. Thisannouncement came as a surprise to us and it came as our agents had identified the place where the bombers were living in Ryazan and were preparing to arrest them.” And it was precisely at this moment that Patrushev replaced the foiled attack story with the exercise theory.

NARRATOR: The FSB had an opportunity to announce the exercises the previous day, 23September, when Alexander Zdanovich was the guest on the programme “Hero of the Day” on NTV. However, he didn’t mention the word “exercises” even once. There can be only one explanation for this the FSB hoped its agents would be able to get out of Ryazan without being noticed. Butthe very fact that the FSB operation had failed put Zdanovich on his guard, and he tried to play down the Ryazan affair.

ZDANOVICH: According to the information currently in my possession, no explosives were discovered. Eventhe reports that came out in the morning, that supposedly there were hexogen fumes or hexogen have not so far been confirmed by the specialists.

Svetlana SOROKINA, television correspondent: But was there a detonator or detonators?

ZDANOVICH: You know there weren’t any detonators. There were things that looked a bit like a remote control or several components of an explosive device.
NARRATOR: But then many of the tenants of the building had seen the contents of the bags that were planted in their basement. Andthe substance did not resemble sugar.

KARTOFELNIKOV: Isaw those bags lying there, no more than ten feet away. Theylooked like, Idon’t know, maybe it wasn’t hexogen that was in them, but to start with it was yellowish and really fine, like chopped vermicelli, some kind of granules, let’s say.

ZDANOVICH: Ican assure you in all confidence that there wasn’t any hexogen and by the way, to go back to the explosions that took place in Moscow and other cities, there was no hexogen there either. Aquite different explosive was used.

NARRATOR: Six months before that the leaders of the FSB were saying something entirely different about the explosions in Moscow.

PATRUSHEV: We have received new information that traces of hexogen and TNT were discovered. Thisalready indicates that the explosion was definitely not an accident.

NARRATOR: Why, after the incident in Ryazan, did the FSB start denying that hexogen had been used in Moscow? Theanswer’s simple: there had to be as little similarity as possible between the real explosions in Moscow and the so-called exercises in Ryazan.

FELSHTINSKY: At various different stages of the discovery of the explosive and the bags, the analysis, the panic, the FSB had several opportunities to make a prompt announcement that it was an exercise. Whywas that not done? Because the FSB didn’t think anyone would pick up the trail. Justat the moment when they were about to arrest the terrorists in Ryazan, when the people and their hiding-place had been identified, at that moment Patrushev announced that there was an exercise going on. Andso the public announcement by Patrushev himself that exercises were going on in Ryazan was, of course, an indication that the terrorist attack had been planned from the top with Patrushev’s knowledge.

NARRATOR: In order to support the exercise version of events, the FSB had to explain exactly who had been running them on the spot, so the public was presented with an interview with a “Vympel” special services officer.

VYMPEL OFFICER: Following orders issued by my superiors at the FSB, as the first step in operation “Anti-Terror Whirlwind”, our group was instructed to go to Ryazan to carry out the mission. Thatis what we did. Webought sugar and made an imitation detonator. Thethree bags of sugar were purchased at a local market.
(In front of the camera is a small picture, a scene at the marketplace)

NARRATOR: In order to lend the version about the exercises credibility the leaders of the FSB appealed to veterans from its own special units, in the hope that corporate solidarity would outweigh officer’s honour.

Sergey GONCHAROV, an ALPHA special operations group veteran: Putin has said there are no ex-secret service agents. That’s simply the kind of people we are, and no matter what happens we never retire.

NARRATOR: The special services veterans were poorly rehearsed for the press conference. Orperhaps they simply learned their lines badly.

Dmitriy GERASIMOV, a VYMPEL special operations group veteran: They deliberately pasted over the front plate, like the papers wrote, and wrote the number in ink. Theydeliberately didn’t paste over the back number plate, in order to attract that kind of attention.

KARTOFELNIKOV (repeat): I passed them, but Ilooked back at the rear number-plate too, and sure enough, it was the same. Apiece of paper with 62on it taped over the end of the registration number.

GERASIMOV: And then our FSB officers went down there to determine why the sample they had indicated the presence of an explosive substance. Itturned out that there was practically no explosive, because the kind of instruments they had they have to be absolutely sterile, but there was sample material in it.

NARRATOR: It’s not clear what “practically no explosive” means if Gerasimov is talking about sugar. Butthe most important thing was to overthrow the results of the first analysis, by the Ryazan explosives expert Yuri Tkachenko.

VOLOSHIN: Tkachenko himself was very amused by the statements from the FSB Publics Relations Centre that his hands and the instrument were polluted with hexogen and that he hadn’t washed the instrument down. According to Tkachenko, that kind of instrument should never be washed.

FELSHTINSKY: In the numerous interviews with members of “Vympel”, who supposedly took part in this operation, not even their times of arrival added up. Because they claimed that they left Moscow in the evening of the same day. Anyone who has travelled from Moscow to Ryazan by car knows that it is physically impossible at any speed to get to Ryazan so quickly and then still have time to buy sugar at the local market.

NARRATOR: The FSB claimed that the sugar had been bought in the evening, but the photograph was clearly taken during the day. Inthe face of such discrepancies the only thing to be done is to stick to your story.

VORONOV: It was sugar, sugar, sugar. Asfor the explosion of the detonator, there wasn’t any detonator at all, they bought three batteries in a shop, a shot-gun cartridge, wires and all the rest, made a mock-up and put in on the sugar, on the bags of sugar.

NARRATOR: The FSB spokesman tries to cover every point, like a report, but he doesn’t mention the most important part of the detonator, the electronic watch. Andfurthermore, as the explosives expert Tkachenko stated, the detonator was not placed on the bags.

TKACHENKO (repeat): There were three bags. Theone in the middle had a hole in it. There was an electric watch inside with wires coming off it. Iput my hands in and started gently taking the wires out of the bag.

NARRATOR: But then, contradictions are not so embarrassing if it’s impossible for anyone to check your story.

(A portion of the NTV program ‘Independent Investigation’)

ZDANOVICH: We also use people on our secret staff and we never show them. Thepictures that we showed, taken from behind, where they relate the details, by all means we can show that again.

MAN: Don’t bother! According to what the boss of your investigative department says, there was a cartridge, an imitation detonator. Thenwhy didn’t Sergeyev figure out it was a mock-up? Stoptrying to pull the wool over our eyes.

SAVOSTYANOV: Let’s start from the facts, that they told us it was sugar in the bags. Sothat means that neither the FSB experts nor the Interior Ministry experts know what sugar looks like? Doesit?

Rafael GILMANOV, explosives expert: People who have seen hexogen just once in their lives could never take it for sugar. Youjust have to put a bit on your tongue and taste it and you can tell in a couple of seconds, perhaps not a single explosive has a sweet taste.

MAN: Couldn’t the evaporation detector have mistaken sugar for hexogen?

GILMANOV: Idoubt it very much. No, it’s not possible.

NARRATOR: And yet an analysis that requires just a few minutes was dragged out for six months in the FSB laboratories.

SERGEYEV: Just as soon as the criminal proceedings are over, I’m ready to meet with you and tell you all about the criminal case.

MAN: When might that happen?

SERGEYEV: That Ican’t say.

MAN: How can it take several months to analyse sugar?

SERGEYEV: Well, there’s a queue, you know the way it is.

NARRATOR: Yes, the FSB probably has more important things to deal with than houses being blown up. Butin its effort to appear to do everything according to the law, the special services clearly overdid things. Theway it went on to act was simply absurd.

MURATOV: The bags that the FSB claims contained sugar, that we’re convinced contained hexogen, were confiscated. Andthen it was announced that the bags were undergoing further analysis. Now, if it’s sugar and we’re sure of that, why do we need this analysis?

And after that they were blown up in a safe zone. Butif you know it is sugar, then why do you need to blow it up?

NARRATOR: It’s hard to tell when we will learn the truth. Meanwhile the FSB serves up the stories it has cooked up without blushing or feeling afraid of looking stupid.

ZDANOVICH: The material evidence in this enquiry is sealed in this bag. Wecannot open it without permission from a judge. Butwe brought it with us specially and we know that it was properly recorded in the relevant documents so that there’d be no question of you saying its says sugar, but it’s explosives.

NARRATOR: As it is impossible to verify anything at all in this case, such arguments only convince those who utter them. Withnowhere left to go, the FSB spokesman resorts to the usual argument: state secrecy.

ZDANOVICH: I’ll say it again: ours is a special service and that service makes use of special staff and other means on the basis of the laws on operational and investigative activity, which you know nothing about. Andshouldn’t know, apart from what’s written in the law about technical methods, because it’s a state secret.

NARRATOR: Even this is wrong. Inthe law on operational and investigative activity not only is there no article about exercises. Theword is not even mentioned once. Sothe operation in Ryazan was clearly carried out on some other basis.

MAN: I’ve been sitting here and Idon’t believe these fairy-tales I’ve been hearing from the FSB. I’m an old military man too. Retired with the rank of head of staff of an entire military unit. Doyou know how many exercises Iheld in twenty-eight years in the service? Andnow no one will believe you, or believe in that sealed bag, or those files with all your papers and analyses, no one will believe you.

Vladimir DUDNIK, vice president of the Association for Humanism and Democracy in the Army: The idea of the exercises appeared after the public discovered that something like an exercise was going on. Exercises are announced in advance and the public is involved in them, because this is civil defence. Iam certain there weren’t any civil defence exercises going on.

FELSHTINSKY: If it had been an exercise, they would have presented us with mountains of paperwork signed by the top brass at the FSB. Thefact that this paperwork doesn’t exist, and Iam certain it doesn’t exist, or else they would have showed it to us, proves, of course, that it wasn’t an exercise.

Apart from that, in a country where bombs are already going off everywhere, where several apartment blocks have actually been blown up, no person with any common sense would hold an exercise that was so similar to what happened in Moscow. Nobody would organise exercises in a country where a war is already going on.

NARRATOR: Remember that the NTV programme was broadcast before the new president began tightening the screws. Andthe residents of Ryazan openly mocked the exercise version of events.

Alexander BADANOV, Ryazan journalist: Here we have a paradoxical situation. ZDANOVICH, Sergeyev and the other gentlemen of the FSB are trying to convince us that it was an exercise, but we, the citizens of Ryazan, don’t believe them. Isit because the citizens of Ryazan are too stupid, or is it because your lies are unconvincing?

NARRATOR: Alexander Badanov, who offered to help our film crew, had a bag of heroine planted in his pocket by FSB operatives. Thenthey threatened him to implement the report they drew up if he met with us.

And the reception we were given in Ryazan in November 2001, two years after the memorable events there, was not very hospitable. Wetried to interview one of the central characters, General Sergeyev. Herefused, which is understandable, we hadn’t arranged in advance to meet him. Butthat wasn’t why our group had to leave Ryazan. Aswe left his office building some men in civilian clothes approached us.

VOLOSHIN: They gave us a long-winded lecture on how the streets of Ryazan are unsafe, on the rampant criminality in the town, and on the dangerous driving habits of certain local cowboys. Theyasked us, “If anything happened to you, which it probably will, whose fault would it be?” Then they advised us to leave Ryazan as soon as possible.

NARRATOR: Later on, three months after this trip, the police interrogated Pavel Voloshin while he was already in Moscow.

The only citizen of Ryazan who was not too afraid to be interviewed was Viktor Lozinsky. Andthat might have been because after what happened he was forced to immigrate, to the USA. Asthe president of the Ryazan branch of the Helsinki monitoring group, he was given an unambiguous warning by the local FSB.

Viktor LOZINSKY, former Ryazan resident: It was obvious they were simply going to kill me. Alocal FSB agent would just go up to a tramp in the square and tell him, “you see the guy with the beard buying cucumbers at the greengrocer’s? Hekeeps bothering my wife. I’ll give you a bottle of vodka and a packet of money if you just bash him on the head in a dark alley one night”. Unfortunately, that’s how the secret services have been doing their business for the last five years. There are no written orders, no paper, nothing to be stored in the archives. Justa corpse some tramp finished off round some corner with an ice pick. 3450

NARRATOR: So were all these threats and persecutions triggered by a simple civil defence exercise in Ryazan? Orare the exercises continuing, but now all over the country? NTV’s talk show was shot in an age that is now past, an age when people were not afraid to speak out.

WOMAN: It’s the same old story. They’re trying to make fools of us again. TheFSB themselves are investigating an FSB exercise. It’ll be an open and shut case. It’s a terrible thing to say, but Ithink it all was true, and there wasn’t any exercise.

MAN: And Idon’t understand why we allow ourselves to be led by the nose by people trying to clean the filth off their uniform coats, but they’re covered in filth themselves anyway. Whohad the right to organise an operation involving civilians? Whohad the right and who gave the orders? Andwho had the right to give the orders? ThePresident and who else?

NARRATOR: Indeed, citizens may only be involved in exercises with their own consent. Otherwise, no matter who took the decision, it is yet another infringement of the law.

SAVOSTYANOV: Let’s just imagine that real explosives were planted and it was a real attempt at provocation in order to increase tension in the Caucasus and so on and so forth. Dowe have any guarantee that we would have been given an accurate reply that the public would find convincing to the question of what had happened? Isuspect, unfortunately, that we wouldn’t.

ZDANOVICH: There’s no secret about it, and if they say it’s a closed case, then for God’s sake raise the question, are there any lawyers here? Ifthey don’t trust the Federal Security Service, we’re ready to hand over the case for investigation by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

NARRATOR: One more falsehood. After the broadcast the citizens of Ryazan will try in vain to bring an action against the FSB, but they won’t learn anything new. Eventhough the criminal case was closed, it was classified as “top secret”, in direct contravention of article 7of the Law on state secrecy, which makes it illegal to classify as secret information on extreme events, which threaten the health and safety of the public.

Pavel ASTAKHOV, attorney: Of course all these classifications remain in force for 75years, and Idon’t think we’re likely to learn what actually happened in the next 75years.

NARRATOR: The Russian parliament could intervene and see to it that the truth was known. Thatis why on 18March 2000two “Yabloko” party MPs, Yuri Shchekochikhin and Sergei Ivanenko, demanded an enquiry into the revelations in the “Novaya Gazeta” newspaper.

IVANENKO: It was a fairly innocuous request: look into a newspaper story and get answers to some questions about what happened and what didn’t. Eventhis attempt met with violent rejection, because it was seen and rightly so as an attempt at civil control over secret service activity.

Oleg MOROZOV, Russian MP: We haven’t had an answer yet about whether it was really a terrorist attack that was thwarted, whether it was passed off as some sort of special services operation, an exercise etc., etc It’s a secret shrouded in darkness and we still don’t have any reliable information on the matter

NARRATOR: This is hardly surprising. Ifthe truth about the incident in Ryazan came out there would be a chain reaction and the government would be forced to answer even more tricky questions. Inparticular about who was behind the explosions in Buinaksk, Moscow and Volgodonsk. Andthat’s something both former and present members of the Russian special services agree on.

Oleg KALUGIN, former KGB officer: The entire history of the KGB is just full of this kind of activity. Andin this context Ibelieve the incidents in Moscow and Volgodonsk, and then in Ryazan, that failed explosion, they are all links in the same chain.

ZDANOVICH: The style’s absolutely clear here. Theylooked around for premises, preferably in the basement or on the ground floor. Theyrented them under the guise of storage space for some kind of goods, and the explosive was shipped in. Well, Ithink that in a day or two you could quite easily bring it in and set up the explosion. Itwas delivered disguised as bags of sugar.

NARRATOR: But if we assume that all the explosions in houses in 1999were the work of the special services, clearly it must have taken several months to plan and prepare for them. AndVladimir Putin headed the FSB right up until August 1999.

LOZINSKY: Yes, of course it’s possible that the president and the top brass had nothing to do with it, and there could have been a group of patriotically inclined officers who planted bombs and blew up not just one house but 10or 15, taking the risk for the salvation of the state they love.

FELSHTINSKY: One more question. Theexplosions have taken place, the so-called Ryazan exercises have been held, now why is it that Putin, as president of the country, doesn’t hold an investigation into what happened? Ithink the answer is obvious: either he knows perfectly well what actually happened, or there is, in the final analysis another global explanation, that Putin doesn’t really control anything that happens in the country.

NARRATOR: One way or another, for the Kremlin a new, genuine investigation of the 1999bombings is too risky, because if the enquiry were to establish that the Russian special services are responsible for these terrorist attacks, the legitimacy of all those presently in power in Russia would automatically be called into question.


The memoirs of Nikolai Nikolayev, on the ongoing independent investigation Hexagen and the truth are not sugar can be read here.


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